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Armed Conflict: Nigeria in top 10 countries with highest child deaths — Report

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Over 2 million children need psychological support in North east 

As foundation launches campaign to end war on Children

Godsgift Onyedinefu

A report released by Save the Children, a Non Governmental Organization on Tuesday has reveled that Nigeria is in the top ten worst armed conflict affected countries where over 100,000 children died every year between 2013 and 2017.

The report titled “Stop the War on Children: Protecting Children in 21st century Conflict” was among the three reports launched in Abuja on the occasion of the 100 years celebration of the the Organization.

Other reports launched are; Global child report 2019 and Families torn apart: Protecting and caring for children separated by their families by the cinflict in Northeast Nigeria.

The report which listed Nigeria alongside DRC, Mali, South Sudan, Somalia,Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq indicates that over 550,000 babies have died between 2013 and 2017.

The Country Director of the Organization, Mr. Benjamin Foot speaking at the presentation of the report disclosed that there are more children living in the areas affected by armed conflict than anytime over the past two decades.

According to him, there are over 450 million which means 1 in 5  children living in conflict zones around the world.

Foot regretted that the number of children being killed or maimed has more than trippled with an alarming increase in the use of aid as weapon of war.

He said, “children come under attack because armed groups and military forces disregard international laws and treaties. Every day children face the threat of being killed or maimed, recruited by armed groups, abducted, falling victim to sexual violence, seing their school attacked or humanitarian aid denied. In many cases children are specifically targeted.”

Foot also noted that children suffer indirect effects of conflict and war such as hunger, damaged infrastructure and hospitals, lack of access to health care and the denial of aid.

He revealed that the total number of indirect effects rose to 870,000 when all children under the age of five are included.

The Country Director further disclosed that over two million children and caregivers are in need of psychological support services due to severe distress, hardship and displacement in North East (NE) Nigeria. He added that 770,000 children remain at risk of injury or being killed from explosive remnants of war.

Foot, while stressing that education is a key concern in NE disclosed that over two million school-aged children are in need of immediate  education in emergency support as 867 primary schools are still non functional due to insecurity.

While making the Centenary celebration of the organization, Foot informed that “Save the Children” which started working in Nigeria since 2001 and works in 20 out of 36 states has directly reached 5.75 million children and families.

He therefore called on government and non state actors around the world to uphold international laws around the world and standards to protect children in conflict and  perpetrators of violation of children right in conflict must be held to account.

He also urged the Fedral Government of Nigeria to draft a national policy to guide the implementation of the “safe school” declaration which will be instrumental to make schools safe for children.

He assured that ‘Save the children’ will continue to fight for children every single day and would ask all actors to renew their commitment and join forces to created a conducive environment for children to learn, be protected and grow healthy.

Also speaking, the Chief Child Protection at United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), Miles Kidane while commemorating with save the children on its centenary celebration and achievements harped that more work needs to be done to keep children safe.

She said, “As we celebrate, we are equally reminded of unfinished business, we need to work together to have every child in school, curb mertanal and infant mortality rate, improve food and nutritional security, protect children especially the girls child from violent abuse, malpractices. We need to do more and it’s a collective responsibility of each and every one of us.

She noted that Investing in children is a fundamental responsibility without which human development cannot be complete.

She said if Nigeria succeeds, the West African Region and the entire continent will succeed.

The permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education while commending the organization for it’s work over the years especially in bringing education to Internally Displaced Persons harped that education is the best way to end violent extremism in the North.

The permanent secretary who was represented by Nkiru Osisioma Acting Director, however urged the organization to extend its humanitarian services to the other states saying government cannot do it alone and needs help.

The highlight of the event was the launch of the “Stop the War in Children (SWOC)” campaign aimed at achieving transformative change for children in conflict.

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